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Ethanol's tank may be near empty, Collin Peterson says

By Carol Stender

Date Modified: 07/14/2011 12:07 PM

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WILLMAR, Minn. — Seventh District Congressman Collin Peterson saw it coming, but he didn't think the recent Senate biofuel votes "would be this bad."

The Senate voted to repeal the blenders tax credit earlier this month and end a tariff on ethanol.

"If (ethanol) could access the marketplace, we could compete," Peterson said at the recent Minnesota Renewable Energy Roundtable in Willmar. "The problem is we don't have access to the marketplace ... It's even worse than that because ethanol is no longer viewed as a viable fuel. It's viewed as an outdated technology —something that is past its time — and it's viewed as something that is bad for America. That's a message coming from a lot of different groups —from animal groups and from environmental groups."

A lot of lobbying is going on as groups try to explain renewable fuels and ethanol production to others.

"We are fighting the same old fights we have been fighting before," he said.

Some, like U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, view ethanol as outdated. They say it's not the way to go, Peterson said.

Those groups support "drop-in fuels."

"A lot of people have picked this up but no one has been able to commercially do this," Peterson said. "It costs three times the cost of ethanol production...if you convert the ethanol plants to make drop in fuels, you increase your costs."

Peterson said the bottom line is, in his opinion, the Senate's action "guarantees that cellulosic ethanol is dead in the water." It will freeze investment in all biofuels and tax credits will be lost, he added,

Wind and solar are next, he said.

"I am trying to tell some of these environmental folks who believe we will have cellulosic ethanol, that they will kill this off," he said. "The only things that have happened so far, happened because of corn ethanol. The next thing you will do the wind and solar business because now they have problems with that. They don't like the footprint solar puts on the landscape. They say wind kills birds and they get caught up in all this political correctness.